You may not realize it, but when you watched “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”—this season’s blockbuster—you were also observing the handiwork of Marcy Rector ’99. And you’ll see her credited in an upcoming feature film as well.
Rector, who majored in art and worked in the theatre department at Centre, spent two years working at Actors Theatre of Louisville after graduation and finished her Master of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon in 2004. Since then, she has been working as a freelance costume designer—and she’s had a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
“When I finished grad school, I had $148 to my name,” Rector says. “This was NOT going to pay for a cross country move to LA. So I decided to do what many recent grads do, which was to spend some quality time with my parents, living for free and saving money.”
With that decision, Rector moved back to her hometown, Memphis, Tennessee, which she discovered was the setting for another movie.
“When I returned to Memphis, I heard on the radio that ‘Walk the Line’ was being shot there that summer,” she says. “I spent the next three weeks hustling to get on the movie as a production assistant, and eventually, I did! It was at that job where I met the supervisor who has hired me for many jobs, including ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘American Hustle.’”
Rector’s listing on IMDb, the internet movie database, includes those many jobs. Among her credits are “Green Lantern,” “J. Edgar,” “Django Unchained,” and “TRON: Legacy.”
“In film, I work both as a costume designer and a costumer,” she explains. “The difference is, as a designer, I work for a director. As a costumer, I work for another designer. In either position, the job is to tell the story the director wants to tell. The level of creativity and input depends on the director/producer or the designer. Some people are very open and receptive to new and different ideas, and other people are more focused and particular about how they want to tell the story.”
And hustling is, in fact, part of the game.
“My job is to sell a creative idea,” she says. “This is how I think the story should be told visually, and this is why. Sometimes you succeed in selling the idea, and sometimes you don’t.”
In “Catching Fire,” the costuming was elaborate and creative, and while Rector’s role was to help dress all the extras in the film, she also got a front row look at the masterpieces created by some of the world’s preeminent designers.
“Any scene with A LOT of people in it?” she says. “I helped dress all of them. Because of the success of the first film, we were able to borrow clothing from many different designers. My favorites were the Alexander McQueen pieces that Effie Trinket [Elizabeth Banks] wore. The level of craftsmanship that goes into making that type of dress is stunning and beautiful. One dress was made out of butterflies—as in butterflies-that-really-used-to-fly butterflies.”
Rector recognizes that Centre helped launch her career.
“My senior year, I went to Matthew Hallock [assistant professor of dramatic arts and chair of the dramatic arts program] and told him I wanted to design costumes for a play,” she says. “’OK,’ was his response. I had NO experience designing costumes! I feel like you can go to almost any professor at Centre and say, ‘Hey, I think I want to go jump off this cliff,’ and their response will be, ‘Sure, let’s see what happens!’ Whether personal or professional, ultimately, it is the place where you meet your lifelong partners in crime.”
More of Rector’s work will be featured in “American Hustle,” which opens in theaters on December 20.